Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Gluten Free Mac & Cheese Bites

Ahhhhh mac & cheese, the classic comfort food. These are a rare treat, but are so easy to make and fun to eat, not to mention they're cute!

2 Cups Gluten Free Pasta Shells
1 cup warm whole milk
2 tbs GF flour
1.5 cup shredded Organic Italian Four Cheese Blend  (I used Horizon Organics)
about 1.5 cup Ians GF panko bread crumbs
parmesean cheese for sprinkling
2 tbs melted butter, plus butter to grease the cupcake pans

Cook the noodles until al dente, about 6 minutes. 

Then in a heavy saucepan, melt 1 tbs butter and add 2 tablespoons GF flour and stir over low heat to make a pasty roux. Slowly stir in warmed milk and cheeses until melted.

Mix the noodles with the cheese sauce and salt and pepper to taste. Chopped jalapenos add a fun little kick (or bacon, because well... you know...).

In a buttered 12 cup cupcake pan, coat the bottom of each cup with panko crumbs that have been tossed in melted butter. This will make a tasty, crunchy crust once baked.

Fill the cups with the noodles and sprinkle with more buttery panko crumbs and Parmesan cheese and a sprinkling of paprika.

Pop in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes until the cups are "crispy". Serve warm with some basil or Italian parsley chiffonade.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Loaded Baked Potato Soup- Houston's Knock Off

Happy New Year... a month late! The year is already flying by and I just realized I had no time to post last month as it started with a righteous case of the flu over New Year's eve and week followed by Austin's famous Cedar Fever and then a trip to Ocho Rios, Jamaica to celebrate the hubby's birthday. This was likely my 28th visit to Jamaica, but my first time in Ocho Rios and we had a fantastic time. We stayed at the Sandal's Royal Plantation and were very impressed with the level of service and quality for an all inclusive resort. We were upgraded after a little reservation snafu and I've never had any hotel go above and beyond like that to remedy an error. We cannot wait to return. I will post a few pics at the end of this post.

But now that we are back in Austin, we've had some crazy weather this year. One day it's 70 degrees and sunny and the next the whole city has shut down due to ice storms, or it shuts down in anticipation of an ice storm that never arrives. Classic Texas weather, for sure. Yankees and the like make fun of us, but the reality is that a lot of Texans don't have the proper cars or driving skills to take on icy roads and as a result tons of accidents happen. I was driving slowly into a meeting a few weeks back, knowing sneaky black ice could be lurking, yet a foolish young guy in the opposite lane hauled passed me at 60 miles an hour, hit some ice and started to lose control. Yeah, no thanks, I will stay at home and make some SOUP.

Since I've been working on eating 5 cruciferous vegetables a day per doctor's orders, I admit my culinary adventures have been pretty boring. Roasted Brussles' sprouts, lean meat or kale salad from Whole Foods for dinner. Bah! Boring!

On a cold day, sometimes this family just wants a creamy cup of loaded baked potato soup inspired by our favorite Houston's Baked Potato soup (Now called Bartlett's in Austin). I could never figure out what the underlying hint of herb was until I searched around and found a copy cat recipe online that said they use fennel in their recipe. But of course! However, it's so subtle that my fennel averse husband even loved this soup. The copy cat recipe also calls for 5 cups of whole milk plus half and half, which explains the decadence, but I decided to tweak it a bit for health purposes and it tasted just as good if not better. Instead of baking my potatoes in the oven, I peeled and grilled them in a veggie basket on the Big Green Egg while the hubby was cooking some meats. The slight smoky flavor of the potatoes added a nice little surprise to the flavor profile that complemented the bacon terrifically. This recipe makes about 10 servings and freezes well for later use.

4 large organic russet potatoes, peeled and diced
4 strips of bacon
2 shallots
1 bay leaf
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1.5 tsp fennel seeds (bundle them in cheesecloth with the bay leaf & thyme for easy removal)
1 tsp celery salt
3 cups chicken stock
2 cups 1% organic milk
1/2 cup half and half
1/4 cup sour cream
Shredded sharp cheddar to garnish
Chopped scallions and chives to garnish

Either bake the potatoes in the oven  for an hour then peel and scoop the insides, OR peel and dice them, drizzle with olive oil and grill them at 350 degrees in a veggie basket over charcoal for 25 minutes or until soft.

Meanwhile in a large 6 quart Dutch Oven, cook bacon until cooked crispy. Set aside for later.

In bacon fat, add shallots and potatoes and saute until shallots are softened- about 5 minutes.

Then add herb bundle, milk, half and half and stock, cover and cook over medium low until the potatoes are very soft- about 40 minutes. Be sure NOT to boil as you don't want the milk to curdle. Stir occasionally.

Remove herb bundle and add the sour cream and pour it in small batches in the blender until it is creamy and smooth. Add more chicken stock if it's too thick, or if you like chunky soup, just mash the soup by hand.

Pour in very warm bowls, garnish with bacon, chives, scallions and sharp cheddar (I used a nice Irish white cheddar). Fresh cracked salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!!

Some highlights from our trip...

 Gorgeous West Beach with the restaurant grill to the right.

Lovely lunch of fresh grilled snapper and island lamb kabobs delivered right on the beach after a morning of sailing the hobies.

The stunning villa and private pool

Beautiful plate waiting for us upon our return from a day at the beach.

Birthday FEAST fit for a king! Many thanks to Oratio, Claudine and Lucian for the big surprise.

One more bite of Jerk chicken at the airport before sadly returning to the chaos that is the Houston International Airport. Won't ever fly through there again if possible. 1500 people trying to clear customs through THREE lanes. Almost everyone missed their connecting flight. All the relaxation of the prior week was instantly snapped away in a heartbeat! 

And when things get stressful I just need to close my eyes and picture myself back here...

Friday, December 27, 2013

Gluten Free Apple Tarte Tatin

Mon Dieu this thing is sinfully delicious!!!!! While this treat is gluten free it's most certainly not glutton free. I honestly don't have too much of a sweet tooth, but have found since going gluten free I've been missing the occasional French pastry. None of our local bakeries make GF pastries, so if it's meant to be, it's up to me. I am definitely NOT a baker. I prefer savory cooking because I'm not a fan of exact measuring and tedious labor, but this was surprisingly much easier than I thought it would be. And it is decadent. And every single bite was worth the time I'm going to be spending at the gym today.

Part of what inspired me to bake this is my new bag of Thomas Keller's Cup4Cup flour I recently bought. Would it stand up to the flavor of wheat flour? The answer is an astounding YES!! The flour works like wheat flour and TASTES like wheat flour. And yes, it costs me $20 for a big bag of it, but it's worth every penny in my opinion.


For the Pastry
1.5 cups Gluten Free flour blend
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 pinch sea salt
5 ounces cubed butter- very cold- I put it in the freezer 20 minutes. Use a high fat content butter such as Pflugra- you want 83% or more.
1 large egg
1/4 cup heavy cream or buttermilk (blend it with the egg)

For the apple mixture
3 Honey Crisp apples (Or Fuji, Braeburn or Granny Smith)
Juice of one orange
1 tsp cinnamon
1 pinch of allspice
1 pinch sea salt
1 pinch ginger
1 tsp vanilla extract

For the caramel
1/2 cup sugar
4 tbs butter
4 tbs water

I used a food processor to make the dough and it was super easy. But you could do it by hand by pinching the flour blend until the butter forms pea sized lumps and the dough gets kind of shaggy. I even froze the blade on the food processor because I was taught that the colder the butter, the better.
The dough ball looked like this...

So I blended the dry ingredients until the butter was pea sized, then I poured in the cream and beaten egg mixture in and blended until the dough was smooth. I formed it into a ball and put it back in the freezer while I peeled and sliced the apples and mixed them with the juice and spices- about 10 minutes.

I then took out the dough, placed it between two pieces of parchment paper and rolled it flat with a pin. I peeled off the top layer of paper, I placed my skillet over the dough and with a pizza cutter, trimmed the dough around the skillet. Put the dough on parchment back in the freezer and started the caramel apple mixture.

In a 9 inch cast iron skillet over medium heat, I melted 4 tbs butter. Added the 1/2 cup sugar and 4 tbs water and stirred until smooth.

I then layered the apples in a flat circular pattern around the pan and let it cook over medium low about 12 minutes until the apples began to soften.

Once the apples were ready, I placed the dough over them and tucked in the edges around the apples. Popped it in an oven pre-heated to 400 degrees and cooked it about 35 minutes until the dough was golden brown. Be sure to check it after 20 minutes and every 5 minutes after as each oven varies.

 I let it cool in the skillet about 15 minutes so that the caramel sauce didn't drip when I flipped the tarte over. To do this, place a plate over the skillet and carefully, yet quickly, flip the skillet upside down so the tarte lands on the plate. If you have a husband or strong person lying around, he/she could be a nice person to recruit to do this as the skillet is pretty heavy and you may be a little nervous you'd drop it ;-)

Serve the tarte warm with a dollop of whipping cream or marscapone. Then go run a few miles. Or eat another slice...

The crust... oh the buttery, warm, crispy crust... sinful bliss.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Cheesy Chicken Enchilada Soup

Another freezing cold day brought on a craving for some hot soup with a Tex Mex flavor profile. I used to love Chili's enchilada soup, but I'm not a fan of the quality of their ingredients, so I rooted around on the internet and found a pretty good knock off at www.iwashyoudry.com and used it as inspiration for this rich, decadent and GLUTEN FREE soup. This makes about 8 cups or servings and freezes really well for another cold winter's eve.

8 cups organic chicken stock
2 whole roasted organic chicken breasts
1 large diced onion
1 12 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 can red enchilada sauce
10 ounces velveeta cheese
1 cup Masa Harina (superfine ground corn meal)
1 tsp cumin
1 tbs garlic powder
1 tbs onion powder
1 tsp chilli powder
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup olive oil

I sprinkled two whole chicken breasts with salt and pepper and roasted them at 420 for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile I sweated some onions in olive oil until softened, stirred in the masa and stirred it for about 3 minutes until it became fragrant and toasty. I then added the chicken stock, enchilada sauce and tomatoes plus spices.

I pulled the meat from the bones and stored it in the fridge and added the bones to the soup for enhanced flavor. Covered and let it simmer about 30 minutes. I removed the bay leaf and bones and I then poured the soup in our vitamix blender in small batches and pureed until smooth. I transferred the blended soup back into the pot, added the cheese and shredded chicken and reheated it to melt the cheese. Serve with a drizzle of sour cream or fresh chopped cilantro (which I didn't have and that was a bummer).

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Homemade Soft Pretzels

Austin has had a terrific cold snap with temps dropping to 26 degrees- quite unusual for the area and most welcomed by me. I LOVE cold weather. So I was rooting around in the icebox looking for things to cook with when I discovered some bagel dough tucked away in the back. The Hubs has been on a pretzel and Gulden's mustard kick lately, so I thought perhaps the bagel dough would make tasty soft pretzels. Admittedly they kind of lost their shape when they baked, but that didn't affect their taste! Sadly I can no longer eat wheat, but they received two thumbs up from the Hubs and he suggested we post them as another great use for our homemade bagel dough.

I defrosted the dough in a bowl covered with plastic wrap until they doubled in size, about 2.5 hours. Once defrosted,  I put a large pot of water to boil on the stove and added 2 tbs malt syrup. You could sub honey and 2 tbs baking soda.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

I rolled out a ball of dough into a long strip- about 15 inches, twisted into a pretzel shape and then lowered in the boiling water about 30 seconds...

I removed with a slotted spoon to a baking sheet covered with buttered parchment paper, brushed with egg yolk and sprinkled some Maldon sea salt on them...

Then I popped them in the oven for about 15 minutes until golden brown and served them to my sweetie with some Gulden's mustard. He said they were warm and chewy and he's never buying frozen Super Pretzels again. What impressed me the most is that the dough has been in the ice box for over a year and held up beautifully! Well worth the hassle. I better go make him some dough and some gluten free dough for me to see how that turns out. Stay tuned...

Bagel Pretzels.... Yes.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Gluten Free Cornbread, Sausage, Fennel & Apple Dressing (Stuffing)

Happy Thanksgiving!!!!

This year we are heading to a cousin's home for Thanksgiving, but just to play it safe, I've made my own dressing/stuffing that's gluten free.  I made a batch for the office pot luck and it was quite a hit, so I thought it would be nice to pass along the recipe for my fellow GF family and friends. I adapted this recipe from a Mario Battali recipe and the sweetness of the apple and anise flavor of the fennel add an interesting twist to traditional dressing. It truly is the perfect marriage of sweet and savory.

  • 4 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Salt and freshly Ground Pepper
  • 1 pound Sweet Italian Fennel Sausage (casings removed)
  • 1 Yellow Onion (diced)
  • 1 rib celery
  • 1 bulb Fennel (thinly sliced or diced)
  • 1 cup toasted walnuts or chestnuts (roughly chopped- I omitted them the second time as I forgot to get some at the store and they really add something special.)
  • 1 Apple (grated with a cheese grater)
  • 5 cups Gluten Free Corn Bread (cubed and toasted about 10 minutes in the oven at 350 degrees)
  • 1/4 cup Fresh Italian Parsley (chopped)
  • 1 tbs Dried Sage
  • 1 tbs Onion Powder
  • 1 tsp fennel pollen (you can sub toasted fennel seeds and crush them).
  • 2 1/2 cups Chicken Stock
  • 1/2 cup melted Butter
Serves 8

In a large saucepan, brown the sausage in the olive oil until cooked through, remove and put it on a platter. Then, saute the fennel, onion, celery and apple until softened. About 10 minutes.
Stir in the sausage, parsley and dried herbs and toss with the bread crumbs and nuts. Pour chicken stock over the dressing (or turkey stock), drizzle with melted butter and cook in a 400 degree oven about 30 minutes until golden and crunchy on top and moist on the bottom.

MAKE AHEAD: Sausage and veggies can be made two days ahead and mixed with bread and stock just before cooking. The cornbread can be made a few weeks ahead and frozen.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Parmigian & Asiago Cheese Spread- Bottega Napa Valley

While on a recent trip to Napa Valley we dined at Bottega and our waiter brought to the table a wonderful spread to be eaten with their freshly baked rustic bread. Since I can no longer eat wheat I only got to sample the spread by itself but it was so wonderful and my friends loved it so much that I decided to try my hand at making some for us when we returned home.

Luckily I found the recipe at the Food Network and it was pretty simple and tastes great after a day in the fridge. I think it makes cute little gifts for the holidays, so thought to share it with you. Be sure to eat it a room temperature.

1/2 pound Parmesan, not too dry
1/2 pound Asiago cheese, not too dry
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons chopped green onion
1 1/2 cups extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Pulse all the ingredients in a food processor until smooth with small chunks. Seal in glass jars and store in the fridge up to one month. I've used it in sauces, to top pizza, spread on my gluten free rosemary bread and even with some scrambled eggs and chives. It incredibly versatile, rich and rewarding.

Heirloom tomato and Burrata Caprese with Balsamic "Caviar". I need to learn how to make that caviar!

Passing by on our morning walk, I savored the smell of simmering veal stock wafting from the kitchens...

French Laundry Gardens
 We kicked off the trip with a long sail around the Bay with Captain Lisa from Sailtime San Francisco. Highly recommended!!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Gluten Free Pizza Rustica on the Big Green Egg

My new gluten free lifestyle has been pretty easy to get adjusted to so far. While I try to be 90% Paleo, I sometimes need a little "cheat treat" to keep life enjoyable. It is simply gorgeous outside today and the hubby wanted to make pizza. So I made him a fabulous pie with my Tipo 00 flour using this recipe and then followed up with my own GF version. And you know what? It was quite possibly the best GF pizza I've ever had!! I've tried a few of them at restaurants and they're all kind of weird tasting and tough. This one was very "doughy", with a crispy bottom and chewy center... and totally satisfied my pizza cravings without making me feel like I'm missing out. I was sort of depressed watching the hubby's gorgeous crust puff up and brown, and while this one didn't get as puffy, it was very light and airy. Success!!

1.5 cups sparkling water warmed to 105 degrees
4 cups Gluten Free Bread flour (I like Pamela's brand the best of them all)
1 tbs active dry yeast
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried oregano
pinch of sea salt
olive oil to grease the bowl

For the dough, I heated up some sparkling water until 105 degrees, added 1 tbs active dry yeast and let the yeast come alive for about 10 minutes. I've found that using sparkling water in GF doughs really adds some springy bounce to it.

In my kitchen aid mixer I added 4 cups of Pamela's Gluten Free Bread and Pizza dough, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1 teaspoon dried oregano and a healthy pinch of sea salt. I added the yeast water and mixed the dough for about 10 minutes.

 After three hours.

I oiled a ceramic bowl with olive oil, placed the dough ball in there and covered with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and let it "rise" for 3 hours on the counter. While it certainly doesn't puff up like my glorious wheat dough, it did get kind of springy. The recipe on the box said to par cook the dough, but I didn't. I just rolled it out on the counter with a little more GF flour, added my toppings (fresh mozzarella, onions and pepperoni) and placed it on parchment paper dusted with corn meal. The corn meal adds a nice rustic crunch to the dough. I placed it in the Big Green Egg on the pizza stone for 8 minutes at 650 degrees.

No tough, weird dough here! This crust is legit!

** Side Note**
One rainy evening we decided we wanted pizza with a big, fresh salad but since it was rainy we placed our Big Green Egg pizza stone in our oven and let it heat at 550 degrees for 30 minutes. I made some GF pizza dough and topped it with buffalo mozzarella, shredded fontina, olive oil, sliced onions, prosciutto, olives and sliced figs. I dusted my pizza peel with corn meal, added the dough, topped it and slid it in the oven for 10 minutes until crispy and bubbly. It was fabulous drizzled with balsamic glaze!! I had to share the pictures as the toppings combo was really wonderful.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Gluten Free Artisan Rosemary & Parmesan Bread

I've been doing very well sticking to my attempts to adopt a paleo lifestyle, but to be quite honest, I think I may have to be 90% Paleo as I just like bread and pasta too much and the thought of never having them again (as an occasional treat, of course) just doesn't seem feasible to me right now. That just seems like a blatant robbery of my life experience.

This morning before my walk I was tying up my laces while sitting next to my flourishing rosemary bush when the thought, or more accurately, the DESIRE for fragrant rosemary bread engulfed me.  I thought about it during my walk while listening to Marcus Samuelsson's touching memoir Yes, Chef and by the time I returned home a light rain began to fall and my mind was made up that I was going to make some fresh bread.

I've tried a variety of gluten free flour mixes and of them all I have found a blend of Pamela's Bread flour and Pamela's Artisan flour mix is pretty terrific (besides Thomas Keller's Cup4Cup which I plan to order as I hear it's a shoe in for the real deal). While I know a lot of people make their own flour mixes as it is more economical, I don't want a bunch of flours and xantham gum, etc taking up pantry space, so pre-mixed flours work great for me. This bread was light and airy and tasted like a true gluten flour artisan boule! I was thrilled...

1.5 cups Pamela's GF Artisan Flour Mix
3 cups Pamela's Bread Mix
1.5 cups club soda, heated for 45 seconds in microwave until it hits 105 degrees. (Soda water makes the bread nice and fluffy)
1.5 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tbs fresh chopped rosemary
1 tsp sugar
2 egg whites (adds to airiness and fluffiness)
2 tbs olive oil

Add the yeast to the warm soda water and let it sit about 10 minutes to wake up the yeast. In a stand mixer add the dry ingredients and once the yeast is ready, pour the water into the dry ingredients, add the egg whites and mix on low about 8 minutes.

In a large bowl coat it with olive oil, then sccop the dough and form into a ball, drizzle with olive oil, cover with plastic wrap, then a towel. Let it sit in a warm place for two hours.

Before Rising

One Hour In

Two Hours In

Divide the dough in half, form into a ball (put flour on your hands). Then place it on parchment paper sprinkled with corn meal. I shaved fresh Parmesan on top and course salt just before baking. To bake, heat a pizza stone in the oven to 500 degrees for 30 minutes. 

Place the bread on the stone with the parchment paper and bake at 500 degrees for ten minutes, then lower the oven to 400 and cook another 10 minutes or until the temperature of the bread reaches 200 degrees. Sprinkle with more Parmesan cheese and let it rest 15 minutes before slicing (this is the hard part!)

Look at those airy holes!!! No dense hockey puck bread in my house!


Thursday, September 26, 2013

Creamy Broccoli Soup

Sophomore year in college I took the funnest job ever as a food delivery girl for a popular Dallas restaurant called "Dalt's Grill" on Lover's Lane and Inwood road. It was basically a Chili's or a TGI Friday's knockoff founded by two guys named Dave and Walt, hence the name Dalt's (terribly imaginative, I know). Almost all my friends worked there and it was a total win for me because I had the freedom to drive around town listening to my favorite techno music while making pretty good tips and scoring some free food after my shift was over. We were a tight knit group and often went out to blow off some steam only to collapse in bed for a few hours before our next shift or class the following morning. How I managed to live off of barely any sleep, cheap wine and Dalt's food is a wonder and testament to the endurance of a young body. And I'm paying for it today. But I wouldn't trade any of our debauchery for one second as it was a glorious time and our last chance to live wild and free before the constraints of adulthood wrapped their vise like grips around our slender throats.

One of my favorite post shift treats was Dalt's broccoli cheese soup. I adored the stuff! Naturally since it contained some overcooked broccoli I assumed it was super healthy so slurped it down with abandon to prepare for the night ahead of partying. (I also had the incorrect assumption that cranberry juice in my vodka made my cocktails healthy, and high carb dishes were the key to staying thin as long as they contained no fat). I miss you 1990s. Ignorance was true bliss.

All that fun living has caught up to me and I must now spend my spare time practicing yoga poses, meditating and eating lots of cruciferous veggies. And not the kind served in a salty, preservative laden processed cheese base either! I've enlightened my appreciation of broccoli soup with a simple and delicious soup made from the freshest ingredients that is every bit as satisfying as that unrefined concoction I devoured at Dalt's.


Florets of two organic broccoli crowns
1 cup of fresh organic spinach or kale leaves
3 cups low sodium chicken stock (preferably homemade or organic stock from a box- not a can)
1/4 cup sweet white wine such as a Reisling
1 large carrot, diced
1 small yukon potato, diced (optional but it thickens the soup nicely)
1 medium yellow onion, diced
3 cloves roughly chopped garlic
2 tbs butter
1/4 cup cream (this is not a low fat recipe, but a helluva lot healthier than that Dalt's soup!)
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs fresh thyme
about 1 tsp sea salt or to taste
1 tsp white pepper

For garnish:
fresh chopped chives & tarragon or chervil

In a 5 quart soup pot I melted 1 tablespoon of butter and softened the onions, carrots and potatoes about 8 minutes over medium heat. I added the wine, herbs and turned up the heat and cooked about 3 minutes until the alcohol has dissipated. Always be sure to cook off the alcohol before adding any stock as you just want the sweetness left over and no raw wine taste.

Then add the stock, cover and cook about 15 minutes to soften the potatoes and carrot. Add the broccoli and spinach or kale, cover and cook another 15 minutes until the broccoli is softened.

Transfer to a blender (invest in a good one such as a vitamix or ninja as they really do a bang up job pureeing soups). Pour it back into your clean soup pot to rewarm, stir in cream and 1 tbs butter. Now please listen to me here: the fat from the butter and cream is what makes this soup taste delicious. You can omit them or maybe even use some half and half, but a cupful of this soup will not send you into the fatosphere, so live a little! Ladle into warmed soup bowls and garnish with fresh herbs and a bit more coarse sea salt. Another charming serving option I discovered on a recent trip to Clark's Oyster Bar is to nestle the herbs in the spoon and serve it alongside the bowl so your guests, or you, can swirl in the fresh herbs. If I weren't gluten free, I'd toast up some fresh croutons to sprinkle on top.

As you can see by my posts, I really love green soups, and while this one may be a little decadent, it's terrifically healthy as well. It's all about living a balanced life. Namaste.